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Reset and Rethink New Year’s Resolutions

Forget old ideas like dieting or working out more. These approaches to New Year’s resolutions offer a fresh twist — and better results.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that making New Year’s resolutions is a recent phenomenon — perhaps started by some 1970s ad campaign. But no.

The first New Year’s resolutions were reportedly made 4,000 years ago by the ancient Babylonians. At an annual 12-day festival at the beginning of the year, they would pay off debts and return borrowed items, hoping to earn the favor of the gods. The ancient Romans also had a New Year’s tradition, where they offered sacrifices and promised good behavior. So, our modern habit of making resolutions has a long history.

Humans have an equally long history of failing to uphold those resolutions. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, and they fail fast — by the second week of February.

A Business Insider article states that people tend to fail at resolutions for several reasons. One, they set goals that aren’t specific like “eat healthier.” Two, their resolutions don’t sound particularly enjoyable. And three, they set goals that are more about societal expectations than what feels deeply personal.

With this in mind, here are some ways to make New Year’s resolutions that will resonate with you and help you actually achieve something awesome in 2021.

woman with eyes closed, holding headphones to her ears Reset 1: Make it Fun

Since you’re a music educator, how about setting an intention to create a monthly playlist? This could be songs that reflect your taste in pop music like a “Beatlemania” or “Boy Bands Forever” playlist. Or songs that match your current mood about social injustice or yearning to be outdoors.

What about a list to support your teaching goals, such as songs for groups, genres or timeframes you’ve been meaning to explore? To get you started, check out this Spotify playlist a teacher created to feel pumped up.

You can even involve your students in this exercise by asking them to create and share playlists based on a monthly theme. At the end of 2021, scan your playlists and compile the top 12 songs into a “Best Songs of the Year” mix.

decadent dessert -- brownie topped by ice cream and caramel drizzle Reset 2: Make it Decadent

What’s another step past fun? Total decadence.

Vow to create one utterly delicious new dessert each week. Or maybe you and your partner decide to curl up and do an at-home whisky tasting once a month, sipping spirits from various places around the world. Or indulge in screenings of classic movie musicals. Doesn’t that sound more inspiring than saying: “learn to cook, study geography and foster my passion for music?”

Reset 3: Think Quarterly

three small calendars showing one month each -- January, February and March

Try setting resolutions on a quarterly — rather than yearly — basis, a trick taught by happiness and habits expert Gretchen Rubin. She actually offers all sorts of ways of approaching resolutions, from forming a club with others to assessing your personality.

But for me, the best tip is to set quarterly goals. It’s much more tangible — and achievable — to decide, for example, that for Q1, my resolution is to work on my original music compositions for 20 minutes a day. Then for Q2, see how you’re feeling, reassess and set a new goal. With a year-long goal, the 12-month window creates a relaxed zone of “sometime soon” that can continually get pushed back and become “never.”

half apple smeared with peanut butterReset 4: Simple Swaps are Powerful

Remember, vague goals like “eat healthier” don’t tend to work well. But let’s say you’ve been having a daily Snickers every day after classes end. Swap the candy bar with a daily snack of peanut butter on an apple and you’re getting 4.4 grams of fiber in the apple and 1.9 grams in two tablespoons of peanut butter, racking up 6.3 grams out of the daily 30 grams that you should aim for, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Save the Snickers for a Friday treat, if you can’t live without it.)

view of a desk from above with computer monitor and stacks of papers

Reset 5: Take Tiny Steps

Vowing to get to know all your students better is a huge goal. Break that resolution down into break-out sessions — in person or virtually — with smaller groups of students, which will allow you to talk more with each student and get to know his or her strengths and goals.

On a personal level, decluttering your workspace can feel pretty overwhelming, but what if you commit to removing one item from either your home or school office every day, all year? Pretty soon, the piles of music, papers and files will be tamed.

By seeing New Year’s resolutions as ways to set goals and enrich your life, rather than trying to force change you’re really not interested in, you’re much more likely to succeed. So cheers to the fresh start, and let’s see what good things can happen in 2021.

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